Monday, March 26, 2007

Today's English lesson

From the American Heritage Book of English Usage:

I'll Have None of That!

“… and then there were none.”
The closing words of this well-known nursery rhyme should dispel the notion that none can only take a singular verb. People opposing the plural use base their argument on the fact that none comes from the Old English word an, meaning “one.” But the citational evidence against restricting none is overwhelming. None has been used as both a singular and plural pronoun since the ninth century. The plural usage appears in the King James Bible as well as the works of John Dryden and Edmund Burke and is widespread in the works of respected writers today.

Of course, the singular usage is perfectly acceptable. Whether you should choose a singular or plural verb depends on the effect you want. You can use either a singular or a plural verb in a sentence such as
None of the conspirators has (or have) been brought to trial.
However, none can only be plural when used in sentences such as
None but his most loyal supporters believe (not believes) his story.

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